Will drawing comfort food make us happy?

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This is NOT a paid Jerkee’vertisement.

Reason number 132 Im a misfit.

My comfort food—if one defines comfort food as consumable stuffs which, when shoved in jerky pie-hole, make every fiber of your being shout OH YES!!—is salt.

Jerky, pistachios, soy sauced sushi, salted popcorn.

Salt, Salt Salt.

According to studies normal people’s comfort foodsand for the purpose of this post’s rambles—are ones high in fat & sugar.

In addition, according to individuals who spent time researching the obvious, consuming said comfort foods makes us happier & generally improves our moods.

chock full of OVERsalted goodness.

OVERsalted happyMAKING goodness

There is, however, a new twist on this and it intrigued me:

A report in the Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science recently suggested merely *drawing* pictures of unhealthy food can also have positive effects on mood.

Details of the study can be found here (translation: my description of the whole shebang grew far too verbose) but essentially heres the way it all went down:

  • Subjects were randomly assigned to four groups.
  • One group drew cupcakes (sugar/fat), another pizza (low sugar/fat), another strawberries (sugar/no fat), another peppers (low sugar/low fat)
  • Participants had not eaten prior & after drawing rated hunger, mood, and excitement (for both before/after drawing).

Drawing pizza improved participant’s mood by 28%, sketching cupcakes & strawberries elevated mood by 27%/22% (respectively). The pepper-drawers experienced mood improvement by only 1%. No significant differences in hunger between the groups.

Given the evidence above I immediately regretted not getting my PhD. Who knew markers & construction paper could comprise my dissertation?! researchers concluded:

Creating images of high-fat and sweet-tasting foods could be an effective way to enhance mood.

Creating and not eating.

And with the vast proliferation of sweet summer treats in the Tornado’s world—thank you play dates & camp stints—I was quite curious if merely drawing these confections might result in the same mood-elevation.

And so we drewΒ (if by WE you mean HER—-which I do).

And learned, as per my misfit love of salt over sugar, we didn’t quite fit the study’s results.


this made us smile.

this made us smile.


this made us grin, too.

this made us grin, too.





After the Tornado sketched we talked, in an informal ‘researchy’ way, about how she felt before and after.

  • She said drawing the ice cream made her feel happier because it made her think of celebrating & about my birthday.
  • She said drawing the pepper made her happier because her daddy loves peppers.
  • She said drawing the pizza made her so happy because she loves pizza.

Obviously we do *not* fit the study results (ours pointed to the notion of to draw ANYTHING is to be happier than before you drew)—but that’s not a night-snacking, salt loving, weird foods eating, surprise for our house.

And you?

  • Had you seen this study? Did you find it intriguing?
  • Want to join us in the sketching o’the comfort foods & report back (please please?)?


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  1. says

    Hehe, heard about this one on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Highly recommend Paula Poundstone’s (highly scientific, of course) commentary on the matter πŸ˜‰

  2. says

    Time to get out my crayolas! Really interesting study–I love stuff like this. Reminds me of another where cyclists had a swig of gatorade, swished it around in their mouths and then spit it out. Same performance enhancements as those actually drinking it. The mind is powerful!

    Salt, here, too!

  3. Nettie says

    I can see how this would work for me.
    If I DRAW cake I am reminded of how much I love cake and how many cakes I have loved LOL

  4. says

    interesting. But, i’m glad Tornado felt happy because it reminded her of a person or a happy event. Not because it’s junk food. That says a lot about her! such a smart lady

  5. Runner Girl says

    I like when you say drawing made you and the Tornado happy!
    I used to babysit alot and we would color for hours.
    I’d forgotten how relaxing that is.

  6. says

    So interesting! I’ll tell you one thing, when I see pictures of cupcakes and ice cream (art, not actual photos)…I smile…I smile a lot. It definitely boots my mood. I also love peppers so, seeing that pic you posted made me smile heeh

    I also smile when a bowl of salty popcorn is placed in front of me as well πŸ˜‰

  7. says

    Interesting…. I loved Tornado’s take on it all – it just made her happy & nothing to do with eating except for the pizza! ME – if I drew a fave cookie – I would just want to go find one & eat it!

    Yes, my FB comment but it is what it is.. ALSO I can’t even draw stick figures so not sure if mine would look like food! πŸ˜‰

  8. says

    I’m in serious need of some comfort food right now and I’m not sure that any drawing is going to help – might take a whole pad of paper.

  9. says

    Very interesting! Drawing or doing something creative when one has a craving is also a good way to force yourself to wait it out. When I’m knitting, I can’t be eating chocolate chip cookies!

    Did I miss this? Did drawing actually keep the participants from eating the foods that made them happy?

  10. Miz says

    Interestingly, they simply focused on happiness and mood elevation – not on being a deterrent :-)

  11. says

    Drawing comfort food can make you happy? Interesting concept. I like your experiment better. Drawing ANYTHING can make you happier. All this talk of drawing food has made me hungry, did the study cover that part. Going for lunch now but I think I’ll skip the peppers on my ice cream.

  12. says

    I love salty foods, too! :) And I used to seriously dislike anything sweet when I was little. Unfortunately, that changed a bit over the years, but I still prefer salty to sweet most days.

    I’ll have to do this with the kid!

  13. says

    I saw the study.

    I think it would be better to draw a picture of a puppy!

    My guess is that this comfort food drawing behavior would lead to more comfort food eating in the long run, as Jody hinted at. She’s probably eating that cookie right now, lol!

  14. says

    What an interesting study! I think I need to try this. I would draw a roast chicken with rice and green beans. My favorite comfort food that my mom used to make :)

    What is your favorite comfort food?

  15. Loretta says

    I dunno… everything I remember reading always warned about “food cues”. Even seeing photos or commercials of food is supposed to stimulate our digestive track to prepare to EAT when we see them, even raising blood glucose levels in preparation. Wish the study had carried it out to the logical conclusion… after their mood improved, did they ACT on it, or want to eat it??

    Me… not gonna try it. Got a hard enough time resisting tempting stuff, without deliberately petting the tiger to see if I get bit. ha ha ha ha!!

  16. says

    Yes, it’s intriguing! Especially i want to share this with a friend who is using The Artists Way to help her with recovery. She will be fascinated, i think.

  17. says

    I think I heard this on WaitWait awhile back, and I can’t help but think, as you do, that it’s the act of drawing that improves mood. I can’t even draw a stick figure, but just sitting quietly and doodling on a piece of paper is calming. And a bit hilarious. :)

  18. says

    I have never been good at drawing stuff on paper but I guess artistic skill isn’t the point. I’ll give it a try anyway. I used to be terrible at eating comfort food – any type of salted nuts, especially cashews was my biggest vice. Now if I need comfort food I eat some fruit or natural yogurt but it does take willpower :-)

  19. says

    Hmmm… don’t get the drawing thing (can’t imagine that being fulfilling) but have heard the same thing about just smelling your comfort food, or having something that mimics the taste.

    I know when I’ve been in a binge and if I’m full but want ‘more’ I actually just lick the flavour off corn chips / flavoured rice cakes and so forth. I’ve sometimes consumed entire packets of stuff just by licking the flavour off.

    PS. Gross I know! Though I do comfort myself on the fact that I’m consuming less calories.

  20. says

    Love this! I’m also a salt lover. Maybe I’ll just draw the shaker? The mind is a powerful tool! Thanks for the tip on yet another way to USE it.

  21. says

    I’m an artist and I had never considered drawing my favorite foods… sounds like a new project! Love this light-hearted post πŸ˜€